species: human

A Cow’s Milk Reveals Her Health

A Cow’s Milk Reveals Her Health

Defense wins games. Ask any coach impatiently striding the sidelines. “The defensive line-up must be ever vigilant and able to rapidly neutralize the attacking incursion, which may come from any direction. You cannot wait for help from the cover defense! Any defensive lapse will be ruthlessly exploited by this opposition and all will be lost,” shouts the coach at spent and cowed players as the bell signals the end of their halftime break. Coaches could learn a lot more about defense from biology. An exemplar defensive strategy par excellence is used by mammals, especially dairy cows, where the defensive system is the animal’s immune system, the best in the league, and the opposition threat is microbial infection. Read More...

Human Milk’s Lutein Content Adds to the Evidence for Breastfeeding

Human Milk’s Lutein Content Adds to the Evidence for Breastfeeding

Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are crucial components of a healthy diet, but few have heard of lutein, a substance that is structurally similar to vitamin A and found in spinach and kale. Because the human body cannot make lutein, the amount that one swallows determines how much is available to protect the skin from ultraviolet light, lower the risk of some cancers, and—if relevant—moderate the progression of atherosclerosis. There is also mounting evidence that lutein is important in fetal and infant development. Fetuses and infants receive lutein directly from their mother—via blood that passes through the placenta, and by consuming human milk. Read More...

Could Cheese Be the Answer to the French Paradox?

Could Cheese Be the Answer to the French Paradox?

There may be nothing more iconically French than the image of a luscious cheese board and bottle of aged red wine. But for those of us living in a hyper-health-conscious culture, constantly bombarded with diet and nutrition trends and fads, it would be difficult to see a wedge of Camembert and glass of Pinot Noir as anything other than an indulgence. And certainly not as a “healthy” choice. Yet decades of research show that a French diet, including a high intake of saturated fat from cheese and alcohol from wine, may lower incidence of mortality from coronary heart disease. Though researchers have long looked to the beneficial properties of antioxidants in red wine to explain this French Paradox, the benefits may actually lie with components in cheese. In particular, a recent study found that a potent intestinal enzyme, alkaline phosphatase, may be stimulated by dairy products to fight cardiovascular disease. Read More...

Higher Milk Consumption Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Hip Fractures

Higher Milk Consumption Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Hip Fractures

Bone density decreases with age, leading to an increased risk of hip fractures. Milk is considered helpful for maintaining bone health due to its high calcium, protein, and its fortification with vitamin D, and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume two to three cups of milk or equivalent dairy foods per day to protect aging bones. Read More...

Drinking More Milk Associated With a Lower Risk of Cognitive Disorders

Drinking More Milk Associated With a Lower Risk of Cognitive Disorders

Increased age brings with it a greater risk of cognitive decline and disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The lack of effective treatments for these cognitive disorders has spurred the search for factors that can prevent or slow cognitive decline. One of the factors that has attracted a lot of interest is nutrition, and it turns out many of the things we eat or drink could play a role in preventing cognitive decline. Read More...

Gut Check: Polyamines in Human Milk Are Essential for Intestinal Maturation

Gut Check: Polyamines in Human Milk Are Essential for Intestinal Maturation

Putrescine, spermine, and spermidine may not have the most appetizing names, but these amino-acid derived molecules (called polyamines) are ingredients of all mammal milks. The presence of polyamines in milk is not surprising—putrescine, spermine, and spermidine are manufactured by all mammalian body cells, including mammary tissue. But polyamines are not accidental milk ingredients, passed on simply because they are ubiquitous in mammalian cells. Research from human and non-human animal models demonstrates that optimal nutrient absorption, the composition of the intestinal microbiome, and even food allergy may all depend on a sufficient supply of polyamines during the neonatal period. Milk polyamines, although odd in name, are essential for the proper maturation of the gastrointestinal tract in humans and other mammals. Read More...

High Dairy Consumption is Associated with Better Short-Term Memory in Men

High Dairy Consumption is Associated with Better Short-Term Memory in Men

Eating dairy products positively influences brain function, with higher dairy intake associated with improved cognitive ability and short-term memory, and reduced cognitive decline and dementia. However, previous studies that looked at these associations could not rule out the effects of confounding factors such as genetics and family environment, which are also known to affect cognitive ability and food intake. Read More...

The Many Lives of Fat Cells

The Many Lives of Fat Cells

People obsess about fat. Many have much more fat than they need deposited in various locations in the body and it threatens both health and fashion. Fat has now developed a bad reputation. In times gone by, a bit of extra fat meant a lifesaving energy reserve in times of food scarcity. Indeed, the metabolism we have inherited from our ancestors was originally fine-tuned to suit the feast or famine lifestyle of the past; however, it is not suitable for most people in today’s world where food abundance is the norm. Fat is a simple thing, or so we thought. There have been several surprises of late. Read More...

Dairy Fatty Acids Serve as Markers for Lower Diabetes Risk

Dairy Fatty Acids Serve as Markers for Lower Diabetes Risk

Ask an average citizen how much fatty food they eat, and the response is likely to be a sugar-coated version of the truth. Many studies that search for links between dietary habits and complex diseases face this problem. But what if there were particular molecules that hang around in blood, which could be used to diagnose how much of a relevant foodstuff an individual typically consumes? It would mean that the disease risks attached to eating the food could be stated with greater certainty. This is exactly what Mohammad Yakoob of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues have identified in three fatty acid constituents of dairy products. Analyzing measurements of levels of these fatty acids in the blood of thousands of people enrolled in prospective studies has led these researchers to conclude that dairy fats reduce the risk of diabetes. Read More...

Colostrum Through a Cultural Lens

Colostrum Through a Cultural Lens

In the first hours and days after a human baby is born, mothers aren't producing the white biofluid that typically comes to mind when we think about milk. They synthesize a yellowish milk known as colostrum or "pre-milk." Colostrum is the first substance human infants are adapted to consume, and despite being low in fat, colostrum plays many roles in the developing neonate. Historically and cross-culturally, colostrum was viewed very differently than it is amongst industrialized populations today. Read More...